20 November 2010

I am Google ... sort of

I am preparing a series of lectures on landscape imagery for next year, and find myself making frequent return to several books. Appleton's Experience of Landscape, for instance. Nash's Wilderness and the American mind. Spirin's The language of landscape.

As I go, I extract fragments for reference and/or quotation. Time was, I'd have hand written these on index cards; now I stick the book into a scanner and let OCR take the strain.

I'm also, of course, referring at the same time to numerous electronic sources – which is so much more convenient since, quite apart from instant searching, I just have to highlight, copy and paste ... or even "save page as" ... or, better still, just store a link to the page. I have, in my notes for this lecture, for example, links to recent posts by Ray Girvan (Old Park) and Julie Heyward (Instrumentality).

If only the printed texts were as instantly accessible in their entirety as the electronic sources.

Sometimes, of course, a printed text is also available in digital form. It's well worth my well, for something often used, to buy both forms: paper as definitive version, digital for flexible reference and quoting. But that's not possible for the above three examples.

As I scanned a paragraph today, it dawned on me that I am gradually and unintentionally compiling a fragmentary but increasingly complete digital copy of a book in this way.

How do I feel about this?

I take copyright very seriously. I would not knowingly do anything which in might in any perceivable way tend to undermine the author's income from the text. But it seems to me that as long as I keep the material solely for my on use, and no purchasable electronic version exists, I am not going beyond my own moral view of "fair use".

There is one difference between Appleton on one hand, Nash and Spirin on the other: Appleton is out of print. That is probably not a significant difference for any practical purpose ... but it feels different as a starting point. So, as of today, I have started deliberately scanning the whole chapter containing a section I need from Appleton, rather than just the section itself. When I have the whole lot, I'll combine it into one PDF file and bingo ... I will be my own miniature Google Books.

When I've done that, I'll consider what to do about the others.

  • Jay Appleton, The Experience of Landscape. 1986, Hull: Hull University Press. 0859584615. [Originally 1975, London: Wiley. 0471032565.] [Most recent edition 1996, Chichester: Wiley. 0471962333 (hbk) or 047196235X (pbk).] [Now out of print.]
  • Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American mind. 1982, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. 0300029101 (pbk.). [originally 1967]
  • Anne Whiston Spirin, The language of landscape. 1998, New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press. 0300077459, 9780300082944 (pbk).

1 comment:

Acerone said...

I would say this is certainly 'fair use'. What difference does it make to anyone, the author included, if you also own a copy of the text in a digital format? I don't believe any moral or copyright issues have been breached at all...

I have often thought about this when downloading music. Yes, i have on occasions used file-sharing websites to find music (both moral and copyright issues definitely breached). But i will defend my reasons for doing so...

For the most part i have used these sites to download music i have already purchased and legitimately own; but on vinyl. During my 15 or so years of DJing, i bought every piece of music i owned on 12" (and very rarely 7") vinyl records. I still own the majority of it and store tons of it in my back room along with my turntables - much to Mrs Acer's dismay. The thought of transferring it to my computer so that it can be played through my home system or on my iPod seems like a long and laborious task, one of which i wont entertain. So i have on occasions sourced and downloaded a digital version from file-sharing websites...

Legally i have broken the law. But all i have done is chosen to take a simpler and far easier route to gaining the same outcome - a digital version of music i already own.